Yesterday marked a year since we saw those two pink lines that said we would be parents. This Christmas has been incredibly difficult for Jason and I but it was filled with love and family. Last night we came home from Christmas Eve Mass and I discovered that Jason had strung lights on one of the trees in the garden "for James". My carefully maintained facade cracked and we sobbed in one another's arms. This Christmas, while wonderful, was not what it was supposed to be, at least as far as we'd planned.
We dedicated James's Garden Thanksgiving Weekend and the month since has been so difficult for us. There are days that the grief is so heavy I feel I could simply collapse beneath it, but mostly I drown myself in busyness to avoid emotions and search out small things to be happy about.
Planning this garden was very enlightening. I learned that it is often when a plant appears to be bare and without much chance at survival that it has the most growth. Tonight I stood in James's Garden and saw the new life we planted just weeks ago is now wilting and bare. How encouraging to think that perhaps this barren and desolate time will not only lead to growth for these trees and plants, but might bring about something beautiful in us as well.
It comes as little surprise to me that the most profound connection I've felt with God during this time relates to another garden. The night before his crucifixion Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the Gospel of Matthew he says, "Oh My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me". I was right there beside Jesus asking God if there wasn't some other way.
When we came home from the doctor the Thursday before Easter (coincidence? I don't think so) after receiving James's diagnosis I was begging God not to ask this of us. We knew we couldn't let our baby go. Still, I couldn't imagine being able to survive the pain if he didn't make it. I began to pray that if James couldn't survive for God to please take him from us and spare us that pain. I am so very grateful that God stamped His all knowing NO on that prayer.
We loved James so much already and we hadn't even met him yet. We knew that if there was even the smallest chance he could make it we had to do everything in our power to give it to him.
Ya'll that's what Jesus did for us when he said, "if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, Your will be done." He hadn't met us yet, but He loved us so much already. He knew that going to the cross was the only chance we had, so He gave it to us.
Obviously I'm not Jesus, but I realized that when it came to understanding what I was feeling, he knows better than any one.
A few days after the crucifixion, in another garden, Jesus appeared to a grieving and distraught Mary. He'd been resurrected just as He'd promised. Still, she didn't even recognize him through her grief. In the middle of intense sadness it is hard to remember His promises. I can tell you I have been there, and still am many days. Often I am so overwhelmed with grief that I don't recognize He is walking right alongside me.
But He is. I could tell endless stories of all the amazing people that God has put right in front of me through this journey. Sometimes I know immediately that He is at work through them and other times it becomes clear much later. No matter when I catch on though, He is always there.
One of the incredible things about James's Garden is that while we sit and remember our son, we are looking out at reminders of all of our blessings. Listening to the peaceful sound of the fountain, I'm looking at the home Jason and I are making. I see the fire pit where we make wonderful memories with our friends. On the occasions our yard is full of nieces and nephews playing, I know that one day we will have little ones joining in the fun.
I will never be able to fully express the gratitude we have for all of the help and contributions that made this vision of ours a reality. James's Garden will continue to be a work of love for years to come. I look forward to helping my future children plant flowers near the fountain while telling them them all about their brother in heaven and how very special he is. His story isn't over. He continues to make me a better person for having been his mom. One day, in a new garden, I will hold my sweet baby again. Until that day comes I will do my best to make the most of his life, by doing as much good as I can with mine.
Today we are celebrating the birthday of a Savior who made that possible. Cherish your families. Hug them a little tighter tonight for me, and have a very Merry Christmas.